Monthly Archives: January 2017

Macintosh: published!

Mobilites of Knowledge

I am delighted to report that the first paper emerging directly from my research on William Macintosh has just been published in an excellent edited collection, Mobilities of knowledge. The book has been a rather long time coming (I submitting my chapter in 2012, I think), but has been worth the wait (not least because the book had been published on an open-access basis). The editors, Heike Jöns, Peter Meusburger, and Michael Heffernan, have brought together an interesting and diverse set of contributions that will doubtless appeal to scholars in a wide range of disciplines.

My own chapter—“Circulating seditious knowledge: the ‘daring absurdities, studied misrepresentations, and abominable falsehoods’ of William Macintosh”—examines the authorship, publication, translation, and edition history of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The abstract follows:

The author examines the writing, editing, anonymous publication, and translation of a late-eighteenth-century text of travel and political sedition: Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782). Written by William Macintosh, a Scots-born Caribbean plantation owner turned political commentator, Travels was considered by contemporaries to be incendiary—precipitating British governmental action against the East India Company, inspiring revolutionary spirit in France, informing politicians in the United States during the drafting of the Constitution, and instructing natural philosophers in Germany on questions of race and civilization. The author argues that the international spatial mobility of Macintosh’s book was facilitated by geographically distinct acts of editing, translation, and reproduction. The complex publication history of Travels—across editions in English, German, and French—is used to demonstrate that Macintosh’s work was differently staged for different linguistic audiences. The author concludes by reflecting more broadly on the importance of mediation to the mobility of knowledge.

Macintosh and the Google Doodle

The Google Doodle marking the 250th birthday of Charles Macintosh.

The Google Doodle marking the 250th birthday of Charles Macintosh.

On 29 December 2016, Google marked the 250th birthday of William Macintosh’s nephew, Charles, with a Google Doodle. Charles (1766–1843) was the inventor of the fabric waterproofing process that gave rise to the eponymous Macintosh (later Mackintosh) coat.

In my research on William, Charles is significant insofar as he was the subject of a useful privately printed biography, written by his son George, that contains, as an appendix, a short account of William’s life. This account is based, in part, on family correspondence that is now lost and is particularly valuable in fleshing out William’s period of exile in Germany towards the end of his life. Had William’s nephew not found fame through his invention, it is unlikely that any of the valuable biographical detail concerning William’s life would have been recorded in this way.

In 2014 I visited Charles’s grave at Glasgow Cathedral with his descendent, Deirdre Grieve (who was kind enough to alert me to the Google Doodle).